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OG-with-hardscapingEveryone at Studio Shed loves being outdoors. We just can’t help ourselves – we live in beautiful Colorado where we’re accustomed to at least 300 days of sunshine each year and where nature beckons us to play outside. We mountain bike, we hike, we run, we ski, we play! And even when we’re relaxing at home you’ll likely find us, you guessed it, outside in the yard.



Being outdoors is a core value at Studio Shed – we love beautiful spaces and we enjoy being surrounded by elements that create a sense of peace, tranquility and community. Such ideals led us to build the very first Studio Shed, pictured above. (And more recently, itsDesigner Series sibling, at left.) Sure, it was “just for storage” but we didn’t see any point in hiding it in the darkest corner of the back yard or, even worse, creating a distracting eyesore. We saw the addition of our new space as a catalyst for backyard transformation…an opportunity to build something beautiful that, like the mountains and rivers of Colorado, beckons us to spend more time enjoying the outdoors.

Studio Shed is not alone with this desire for backyard transformation and creating, beautiful, functional outdoor spaces. In fact, according to’s recent spring landscaping survey, the motivation for improving backyard landscaping for personal enjoyment of the outdoors is a top priority for homeowners.

We thought May would be the perfect time to discuss steps toward transforming your backyard into the perfect space so we sat down for a quick chat with landscape designer, Lee Ann Marienthal, owner ofLee Ann Marienthal Gardens located in Orange County, CA. Lee Ann is also a proud owner of a 10×12 Studio Shed that is being used as a home office and music-recording studio (pictured below).


How did this indoor space, outdoors, impact the backyard? When asked if her Studio Shed was the final piece of a bigger vision or if it served as a catalyst for undiscovered landscape elements, we learned that it was a bit of both.

“It started as problem solver for our family. It currently takes up what was unusable space that was formerly a grass area. We’ll be reducing quite a bit of water usage because we’ll no longer be watering a lawn.”

While the Studio Shed has been a welcome addition, providing a well designed, aesthetically pleasing and functional space, a new challenge has emerged: “How do we incorporate it into our landscape? I’m excited to get to work on a design which will highlight our studio as well as connect the spaces,” says Lee Ann. Connecting spaces increases the enjoyment of a home and effectively increases square footage by expanding living area to the outdoors.

When not re-imagining her own backyard, Lee Ann enjoys helping clients discover new possibilities for their yard. She considers herself to be much like an artist,

“My design elements are natural elements. My palette is plants, trees, rocks and water.” What inspires LeeAnn’s artistry? “A well-designed garden is a source of peace and inspiration; a joyful refuge from the hurried demands of everyday life…uniquely beautiful landscapes extend each home’s style and architecture into it’s outdoor space.”

Never worked with a landscape designer before? LeeAnn gave us some insight on what to expect. “I try to listen to the client first and then ask a few questions.”


Specifically, you’ll want to have an idea of what your budget is. Also, what is it that you value as an individual and as a family unit? Lee Ann will likely ask you how important ecology is for you and your family. Something you may want to consider when hiring a landscape designer is the role conservation will play in the final design. “To me, a garden that is designed using earth-friendly solutions will endure, which is the meaning of great garden design. It considers all parties involved and that includes Mother Nature.”

Whether you have the perfect design in mind or need a bit of assistance from a landscape designer like Lee Ann (one backyard designed by Lee Ann pictured, above left), there are many approaches to the transformation of your backyard into a welcoming outdoor space. How might you utilize an expanse of resource-hungry grass? “I’d include more permeable hardscape materials as well as plant material that uses less water and drip irrigation where ever possible.” (Great example pictured below, designed by Lee Ann).


How might an architectural focal point, such as a backyard office or living space, actually enhance the outdoors? “It [can serve] in both form & function. It adds another element and can become the focus of a landscape; connecting the architectural spaces which can add new planting opportunities to both soften and highlight the garden.”

Whether your primary goal is to entertain and socialize or to decrease your ecological impact, hiring a landscape designer can be a great starting point for transforming the outdoor space surrounding your home. Regardless of the size of your space, there is a solution for you – there are functional and beautiful ways to create an extension of your home that beckons you to enjoy being outdoors.  Outside is wonderful and inspirational; outside is where we want to be!


(Left photo: a 10×12 Studio Shed creates an opportunity to utilize the previously unused space between it and the house).

Check out Lee Ann’s online gallery and get inspired!

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